George (Jim) Henry

Associate Professor, Assistant Chair
Computer Science Department
henry@cs.niu.edu

After a half-hearted effort at a major in physics and an even briefer attempt at the (then) infant field of computer science, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and joined the Peace Corps with my wife.  We served in Malaysia, a place I could not easily have found on a map at the time, but which was fascinating and shaped my life in ways I could not have guessed.  A few years later, my wife and I spent another two years in Indonesia, where she worked on linguistics research, translation of an Old Javanese poem, and teaching. I taught English, took pictures, and immersed myself in a culture of ancient temples, shadow plays, and gamelan music, as well as the experiences, issues and problems of a developing third-world country. 

Shortly after our return from Indonesia, my wife obtained a faculty position teaching Indonesian at NIU, so we moved to DeKalb and I decided to revisit Computer Science, obtaining a M.S. in 1982; I started as an instructor here, obtained a doctorate in Instructional Technology in 1990, and later became a tenured faculty member.

While I was studying these technical areas, I found ways to apply the skills I gained to develop computer applications to aid in the study and teaching of S.E. Asian languages and cultures. My time in S.E. Asia and my affection for it and its peoples made this especially interesting for me, and the resources of the S.E. Asian Center at NIU made it possible.  In particular, Dr. John Hartmann (who teaches Thai here) enlisted me to help with various computer-related projects on the mainframe and early personal computers.  This work continued and evolved for over 25 years, culminating with our set of Web-based resources called SEAsite (www.seasite.niu.edu), which presents language lessons and cultural materials for seven S.E. Asian countries to a world-wide audience.

Thus my interest in science and technology and my almost accidental exposure to and love of S.E. Asia have come together here at NIU to form a personally fulfilling body of work. We are all gratified to know that SEAsite is used by thousands of visitors each day.

Grants and Research Interests

My research is primarily in the area of development of Web-based materials for the study of S.E. Asian languages and cultures.  It is collaborative in nature, and has involved faculty members from foreign languages as well as history, art, anthropology, and music.  Our most recent project was a course which blended classroom work with on-line materials to help students learn the craft of translation, to understand the target language better, and to develop self-learning techniques.  A current concern is to update SEAsite materials which use exotic scripts (such as Thai and Burmese) to the international Unicode standard.

This work has been supported over the years by several U.S. government and private agencies; currently the U.S. Department of Education supports SEAsite.  We have employed over 50 graduate assistants, mostly from S.E. Asian countries over the past 10 years.

Courses Taught

  1. C++ : www.seasite.niu.edu/cs240
  2. Java (the computer language): www.seasite.niu.edu/cs580java

Personal Homepage

This is an informal and experimental page featuring programming projects and my photographic work: www.seasite.niu.edu/jimstest